Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safe

 Eric Schlosser, Penguin Press, Sept 2013 

From the New York Times book review:

 "Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America's nuclear arsenal. A ground-breaking account of accidents, near-misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: how do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? That question has never been resolved- and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind." 

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From The Guardian:

 "The stories he came across suggest that nothing but a miracle has prevented an accidental Hiroshima or Nagasaki taking place on US soil. In 1958 a Mark 6 atom bomb was accidentally dropped into the backyard of the Gregg family in Mars Bluff, South Carolina. 

Three years later, two hydrogen bombs, with a combined power of more than 500 Hiroshimas, were accidentally dropped over North Carolina after a B-52 broke up in mid air. Neither bomb detonated when they landed in a meadow, but a later secret investigation concluded that in the case of one of the devices only a single low-voltage switch stood between the US and catastrophe. In 1966 a hydrogen bomb was dropped inadvertently over the coast of Spain, also from a stricken B-52; it took six weeks of intensive searching before it was found and retrieved from the ocean bed. 

"As the mass of detail piles up, an important lesson emerges from the book. The way Schlosser explains it to me is that 'our ability to create dangerous things exceeds our ability to control them. We are talking about hubris our lack of understanding of our own flaws and lack of humility in the way we approach technology.'"

Eric Schlosser in a Rolling Stone Q&A:"There's an enormous amnesia on the part of the American people about nuclear weapons. About half of the American population wasn't born yet or were small children when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union vanished. One of the reasons I wrote the book was just to remind people that these weapons are out there and how easily they can go wrong." 

Read Louis Menand's excellent and informative review of "Command and Control" for the Sept. 30 New Yorker titled "Nukes of Hazard".